More than 1,500 Ukrainian refugees arrived in Estonia via Russia last week

Narva border checkpoint.
Narva border checkpoint. Source: PPA Ida prefektuur

Approximately 200 Ukrainians crossed the Estonian border every day last week from Russia, the Police and Border Guard Board said on Saturday (April 2). Some of the arrivals were forcibly removed from Ukraine by Russian forces who then made their way to the EU.

Head of Narva Police Station Indrek Püvi told ERR News in a written statement that over 200 people crossed the border into Estonia on Friday (April 1) and a similar number arrived every day last week.

The majority of people are arriving by themselves or as small groups. There have not been organized evacuation buses. Most people plan to transit to other EU countries. "But there have also been people who plan to travel to Western Ukraine," Püvi said.

The officer said in Narva the border guards speak to people entering Estonia and try to determine their route of travel.

Mostly these people come from Southern and Eastern Ukraine such as Kharkiv, Mariupol, Kherson, Sievierodonetsk and Melitopol, areas that have seen heavy fighting. But a smaller number of people have also come from Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea, areas controlled by Russia since 2014, having transited through Russia.

"There are people who have entered Russia on their own, because they have been unable to evacuate the war zone towards Western Ukraine. However, there have also been people, who were forcibly directed to Russia and allowed to leave on their own after arriving there," Püvi said.

On Friday, the Estonian Refugee Council, Estonian Human Rights Center and transit companies confirmed that Ukrainians deported to Russia were making their way to the European Union through Russia by entering Estonia.

Ukraine has accused Russia of forcibly relocating thousands of civilians from Mariupol to its own territory, the BBC reported earlier this week. Russia is housing an estimated 5,000 at a temporary camp in Bezimenne, east of Mariupol, seen in satellite images.

Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said 40,000 had been moved from Ukraine to Russian-held territory without any coordination with Kyiv. The defense ministry says Russia is relocating Ukrainians from occupied areas en masse to distant parts of Russia, including Sakhalin in the far east.

Since Russia launched its offensive on February 24, more than 4 million people have fled Ukraine, mostly entering the European Union through Poland but also crossing into neighboring Moldova, Hungary and Romania.

Approximately, 26,000 have arrived with an intention to stay in Estonia. Many more have also entered only to transit to other countries such as Finland.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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